- The Washington Times - Monday, November 4, 2002

ST. PAUL, Minn. Buoyed by encouraging weekend polls, a boisterous, packed-to-the-rafters rally of 16,500 screaming Norman Coleman supporters yesterday heard President Bush say the former St. Paul mayor would be "a breath of fresh air in the Senate."
"I need an ally in the Senate," Mr. Bush said as he ticked off the bills he wanted, such as a homeland-defense measure and a bill to make his tax cuts permanent proposals that he said the Democrats are blocking.
Mr. Coleman asked his supporters to help him turn out enough voters tomorrow to reclaim the Senate for the GOP.
"Give me your support. Give me the next two days of your life," he pleaded to the rally at the cavernous Xcel Energy Cell sports arena.
Polls taken for the two largest Minnesota newspapers showed conflicting results, leaving the race too close to call.
A Mason-Dixon Poll, taken by the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Minnesota Public Radio, showed Mr. Coleman leading 47 percent to 41 percent. The Independence Party and Green Party candidates were drawing about 2 percent each.
But the Minnesota Poll of likely voters for the Star Tribune, published yesterday, showed Mr. Mondale leading Mr. Coleman by 46 percent to 41 percent, with 9 percent still undecided. The margin between them was slightly narrower than in an earlier poll.
Both the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune sampled voters from Wednesday to Friday.
"I think that shows how up in the air this race is," a senior Bush administration official said yesterday aboard Air Force One. "This is going to be a race in which every gesture, every word, every action" matters.
Mr. Coleman's strategists said their own daily tracking polls showed the race even closer, with no more than a point or two separating the two rivals.
All the poll results fell within the margins of sampling error, and both camps claimed they had the momentum going into the campaign's final 24 hours.
The contenders were preparing for the only debate of the campaign at 10 a.m. today. Mr. Mondale declined to participate in earlier debates and skipped a prime-time debate Friday.
Mr. Mondale yesterday put out a new TV ad that, unlike his current ad, does not show him speaking directly to viewers, but instead had a moderator reciting his chief accomplishments.
"Original sponsor of Medicare. The Civil Rights Act. Pioneered day care standards. Food safety laws. Helped forge the Camp David peace accord," the ad states. It ends with the tag line, "Serious challenges demand serious experience."
In a statement announcing the new ad, Mr. Mondale's campaign said in a statement that "Mondale's vast knowledge and commitment to the state he was born in makes him uniquely qualified to serve and to immediately deliver on the issues that concern Minnesotans most, like the economy, jobs and health care."
Both men were showing some crossover appeal, according to the Star Tribune poll. At least 20 percent of voters who identified themselves as conservative were supporting Mr. Mondale. And 11 percent of those who said they were liberal were voting for Mr. Coleman.
The Pioneer Press-Minnesota Public Radio showed Mr. Coleman beating Mr. Mondale among men, 54 percent to 36 percent, but losing among women by 46 percent to 40 percent. A large percentage of women, 12 percent, said they were still undecided.
The two candidates, one an old-style Democratic liberal in the tradition of his former Minnesota mentor, Hubert H. Humphrey, the other an urban-style, conservative former mayor, have struck sharply different themes in the final days of a truncated six-day campaign.
For months, Mr. Coleman had built his entire campaign as an attack on Mr. Wellstone's rigidly new-left, protest-style liberalism, saying that it was out of step with Minnesota's political values. But when the 74-year-old Mr. Mondale, who last ran for public office in 1984, replaced the late senator, Mr. Coleman changed strategies, defining the contest between the old tax-and-spend policies of the past versus low-tax, pro-growth policies of the future.
"We're not going back to the days when you solved problems by raising taxes," Mr. Coleman told a large crowd of voters gathered at City Hall in Worthington yesterday.
His remark was a reminder of Mr. Mondale's proposal to raise income taxes during his 1984 presidential campaign against President Reagan, who enacted across-the-board tax cuts that helped pull the economy out of a deep recession.
Mr. Mondale says he wants to repeal the top tax-rate cuts President Bush signed last year, but also says he wants to cut the Social Security payroll tax to help spur the economy.
In his campaign speeches and TV ads, Mr. Mondale is selling his past experience in the Senate, as vice president under President Carter, and as U.S. ambassador to Japan in the Clinton administration.
And yesterday he was raising the issue of "trust" against Mr. Coleman at four campaign events in the northern part of the state, though he said he did not mean to imply that his opponent was not trustworthy
"It's a trust question, the ability to deliver those are all things the public ought to be thinking about. Whether they know me," Mr. Mondale said.
Was he questioning Mr. Coleman's trustworthiness? No, he replied, "This is a civil campaign, and I'm not making that step."
Joseph Curl, traveling aboard Air Force One, contributed to this report.

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